Writing in the West

8. 'Book of the Dead'

Egyptian heart scarab

Egyptian heart scarab containing chapter 30b from 'Book of the Dead', 2011-4031

 

Egyptian belief focused on the importance of the individual’s transition from this temporal life to the life eternal (which often seemed to be a perfected, everlasting version of that temporal life). The processes that ensured successful transition were governed by rituals – a growingly complex sequence of acts, prayers, hymns, spells and declarations – that were enshrined in a collection of texts. By c. 1600 BC these texts had been enlarged and codified into a collection of ‘chapters’, which today we call ‘The Book of the Dead’.